Yes, Yes, Nonaah

Sole brother.

Roscoe Mitchell
Nessa : 1977

Ericka: RM, alto sax. Nonaah: RM, Joseph Jarman, Wallace McMillan, Henry Threadgill, alto saxes.

Dest:OUT is thrilled to present a sampling from from one of the key reissues of the year: Roscoe Mitchell’s seminal solo joint Nonaah. Out of print for decades and never on CD, the tapes have finally been remastered for better sound and five previously unreleased tracks have been added to the original album’s already impressive sprawl. Thanks to Chuck Nessa for providing the above tracks for your delectation. Thanks are also due Mr. Nessa for getting these sounds on wax to begin with.

Given the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s run of stellar records in the late ’60s through the 1970s, it’s only natural the collective work would eclipse any member’s solo efforts. Not enough folks were paying attention when Nonaah firmly announced Roscoe Mitchell as a formidable solo talent apart from the group. Featuring an all-star AACM cast, it showcases his music in a kaleidoscope of styles: solos, duos, alto sax quartets, and more. While the Art Ensemble’s torrid creative pace was starting to slow, Roscoe was ramping up and starting to embrace his own ideas and experiments, preparing in the next decade to virtually lap the group in terms of significant output.

“Ericka” is a stunning solo outing for Mitchell, highlighting his acerbic yet warm tone. The ballad starts out with a melody somewhere in the neighborhood of “My One and Only Love,” and then evolves into something much different. Building slowly, steadily from a clear articulation of the tune to an increasingly more burred and abrasive attack, Mitchell is in full control throughout, and gives the impression of a man playing exactly what he wants, where and when he wants to. The Willisau crowd erupts as the song reaches its climactic end.

Nessa noted when he wrote to us that he had sent the “slow movement” of the quartet version of “Nonaah,” about a third of the total track. It contains the RNA for the World Saxophone Quartet, whether or not this crew was a direct influence. The harmonies are both sweet and sour, the swing patient, the lines long and intertwined. It is over too soon.

You’ll feel the same about the whole album. If you have a decent sense of the aesthetic field being plowed here, and have some affinity for it, you will not want to miss this crucial document. Pick it up from Nessa himself (write to: info [At] nessarecords [Dot] com, PayPal welcomed, $23 in No. Amer.), or from your favorite record shop. (If you don’t have one, try Downtown Music Gallery, Jazz Loft, or Jazz Record Mart.) This Organissimo confab gives a lot of good info amid the well-earned encomiums for Mr. Nessa.

& & &

Eagle-eyed readers (or those already familiar with the disc) will note Anthony Braxton’s name on the front cover the album above. Though Braxton doesn’t appear on the tracks we’ve posted, there are big Braxton doings afoot here at D:O, and we advise all Braxton fans to watch this space over the coming weeks.

Discussion10 Comments Category Roscoe Mitchell

10 Responses to Yes, Yes, Nonaah

  1. Hey — you’ve got an extra “http//” in the link to the Nonaah excerpt…

  2. Sorry about that. We just took care of it – thanks for letting us know!

  3. This album contains mindblowing music throughout. Please – no-one hesitate!

    Some of the most beautiful music imaginable; some of the most confrontational; some of the most imaginative and innovative; on occasion, some of the most difficult.

    I’ve found beginning to get to know this music over the last three weeks or so that it has that great quality where you can sit and ‘work’ at it – really *study* it – or sit back and let it happen *to* you – and it’s equally affecting either way.

    Fascinating also to compare the solo and quartet versions of ‘Nonaah’, as well as that on the ‘Fanfare for the Warriors’ album.

    Enough superlative – that’s all I have for this. It’s already firmly in my critical blindspot like few other things!

    p.s. I like the remark about ‘Ericka’ and ‘My One And Only Love’…never thought of it like that, but yes! Ericka is a wonderful tune IMHO – a real favourite.

  4. Thanks for the post, and as a Braxton fan, thanks for the Braxton tip! Looking forward to it!

  5. Some Roscoe Mitchell trivia: when I interviewed him last year for the radio show, (which sadly is no more), he indicated that the title is pronounced No-Nay-Ah. I had always said “NoNah.” Maybe most people already pronounced it “Non-Nay-Ah.”

    Anyway, I look forward to getting this disc, and thanks for the incredible samples.


  6. Hey Peter – Thanks for the pronunciation tip. And what happened to your radio show? That’s awful news.

  7. Just wanted to point out this is a 2 disc set containing 2 hours of music.

  8. The station decided to go with a live host, rather than a prerecorded show, which I had been doing for a year since moving to Arizona. I hope to move to a podcast soon.

    more on my blog, the post right below my panchromatic manifesto.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>